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Title of Set: 6036 Skeleton Surprise Theme: Castle/Royal Knights Year Released: 1995 Piece Count: 74 Minifigures: 2 Original Price: $8 (USD), Unknown (EUR), Unknown (GBP) Current Prices: BrickLink Price Guide Further Information: Brickset, Lugnet, Peeron, Photobucket Album Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there was a vigilant knight who dedicated his later life toward the pursuit of finding the elusive golden chalice, which, according to myth, bestowed immortality on whoever drank from it. As the years ticked by, and the days grew ever-colder, the knight fought through many obstacles in his path and, in a dank and dark crypt, he finally found the one thing that could make all of his hardships and sacrifices worthwhile - the golden chalice. He marveled in its beauty for a moment before he quickly filled the chalice to its brim with water from his canteen, spilling some water here and there due to his excitement and anticipation. Once full, he drank as much as he could bear whilst he thought about how many good deeds he could accomplish with his new lifespan; however, unbeknownst to the knight, the myth left out a crucial piece of information... that the chalice does indeed grant eternal life but also binds the drinker to guard the chalice forever... Author's Notes: The year 1995 can be seen as the end of the first golden era concerning the Castle theme, as gone were the old fashioned Lion Knights, Black Falcons, Wolfpack, and the ever-beloved Forestmen . That certainly does not mean that all sets were bad during this time (and this is highly subjective anyway) as treasures such as 6036 Skeleton Surprise were occasionally released and are still a joy to own today. And, like most older LEGO sets, three alternate builds are showcased on the box that actually look quite good. You can take a gander at two of the alternative builds here. The build on the right is my favorite of the three. P.S. I know that I stated I would no longer do reviews on vintage sets during my 6956 Stellar Recon Voyager review, but I couldn't help myself. Instructions: Cover: The cover page features the set with the Royal Knight scared by a cute little skeleton. The background maintains the Castle feel of the sets released in the 80s and early 90s by using rolling hills with a rising / setting sun. Random Page: The instructions are an actual booklet and not a pamphlet. Included are 15 steps on 16 pages. The contrast and point of view are both good, making the build easy and enjoyable. Minifigures: Royal Knight: Here is the Royal Knight, who is presumably stationed at the guard tower / crypt to keep a lookout or to take the golden goblet. He is equipped with a brown spear, a Royal Knights shield, and a beautiful and luxurious beard that is paired with some manly stubble. As can be seen, his emblem suffers from the all-too-well-known issue of the white print not being fully opaque, causing it to look pink when applied on a red background. Skeleton: The skeleton is nothing new, even back then, and features the old-styled mold that has ball jointed arms which have a full range of motion but lack tension, causing the arms to strongly obey the law of gravity. I had a lot of fun playing with these skeletons when I was a kid and I enjoy them more than the newer skeletons, despite their shortfalls. Accessories: A yellow goblet (sadly, no pearl gold color existed at this time), brown spear, dark gray lance, and Royal Knights shield make up the accessories. Definitely not much but I find it adequate for a small set. Still, it leaves me wanting a treasure chest filled with a few lovely gold pieces. One can never have enough gold pieces. Pieces of Note: Included in this set are four black wall pieces, one of which has a cobblestone print. These pieces are great for building castles and other similar structures. The Rest of the Pieces: This set largely consists of black and light gray pieces, and even though only a little over 70 pieces are included, most of them are versatile and excellent for adding to existing sets or for creating MOCs. A good example of quality over quantity. Partway Through Building: This is approximately the halfway point in the build, but, as can be seen, the structure is already taking form. The golden goblet is tucked away deep in the crypt. This is slightly further along the build process and shows where and how the skeleton hangs. Look at those arms droop! Completed: Front: How peaceful... Front with Skeleton Hanging Down: Oh my god! A skeleton! The Royal Knight is so manly that he doesn't even care. The skeleton swings downward when the lance is pulled out to a certain point. The skeleton can then be swung back up into position using the technic rod that is attached to the gray cone to the left. I find it easier to just lift him back up using my finger since the cone doesn't have the best grip on the technic rod. Left Side: A nice little yard is on the left side of the set. A good place for a little creative building. As you may have already noticed, TLG supplied a 4 x 6 plate for the roof, which doesn't cover the whole area. This leaves gaps that are both unsightly and unconventional. A 6 x 6 plate solves this issue. I'm guessing that TLG used a 4 x 6 so that the plate is easier to remove. Right Side: The right side has enough room for some flowers, minifigures, and even small brick-built trees. Back: Yes, this set actually has a fully enclosed back. Quite shocking, I know. It makes the set feel complete, satisfying and kind of like a mini-castle. Alternate Build: Sweet, sweet revenge, Mr. Skeleton... It isn't an exact copy of what the TLG designer built, but it is close enough! There is a good amount of scale with this alternate build and it reminds me a bit of 6265 Sabre Island. With a couple extra pieces to fill in the second floor, I probably like it more than the chosen build. Reviewer's Score: Playability: 9.2/10 – Swinging skeleton, knight, goblet full of delicious immortality - what more could one ask for in an $8 set? Well, maybe another knight, horse, extra weapons, or a treasure chest with gold pieces. Design: 9.4/10 – The biggest flaws, in my opinion, are the 4 x 6 plate for the roof that leaves unsightly gaps and the skeleton's arms hanging down while he is hanging, which kind of ruins the surprise. Some flower plants would've been a nice addition to offset the blank space on the two sides, and maybe some front doors like seen in 6034 Black Monarch's Ghost. While I'm at it, a ladder to the roof would've been welcomed as well. Otherwise, this is a beautiful set with worthwhile alternate builds. Price: 8/10 – At $8 MSRP, it was fairly priced as it includes some wonderful pieces; however, I wouldn't say no to having another minifigure and/or some more goodies included in the set. Fortunately, the set can be found pretty cheaply nowadays on BrickLink and elsewhere. Total: 26.6/30 – A very satisfying, self-contained set that is comparable to sets 6034 and 1888, and makes a nice gift to those who are just getting into Castle or to long-timers.